organetto being played (portative)

click on image for organetto sound 
(205kb wav) 
or here for same in mp3 format 

"There are easily manageable organs which are portable and are pumped and played by the same person, who also sings either the soprano or tenor part."
-Roman de la Rose
  13th century

an mp3 of Schafertanz 
(organetto plays melody)

The organetto was one of the most popular instruments of the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries. Relatively light in weight, the instrument, when equipped with a sling, could be carried about and played in religious processions. The player provides his own wind supply by pumping a bellows made of sheepskin and wood with his left hand while playing a button type keyboard of approximately two octaves with his right hand. Because of its limited air supply, the organetto could only play one note at a time. Thus it was used for monophonic dance music, or a single part in a motet, chanson, or other polyphonic work. 

organetto being playedPipes are arranged in two rows and have a high lead content. The key action is mechanical: depressing a key allows air from the bellows to enter the appropriate pipe. Although the organetto is tuned in Pythagorean temperament, other temperaments are possible by pushing harder or more lightly on the bellows.

The playing of Francesco Landini (c. 1325-1397), Italy's best known fourteenth century composer, is charmingly described in a novella by Giovanni da Prato: 

The sun was coming up and beginning to get warm, a thousand birds were singing. Francesco was ordered to play on his organetto to see if the singing of the birds would lessen or increase with his playing. As soon as he began to play, many birds at first became silent, then they redoubled their singing and, strange to say, one nightingale came and perched on a branch over his head.

Lo Spagnoletto - dance tune by Negri 
(first, fourth and sixth verses by the organetto)

Petit Vriens - dance tune 
(includes organetto in addition to soprano recorder, sacbut and rebec)

Bobbing Joe - dance tune by Playford 
(first and sixth verse by organetto)

Official Branle - dance tune

statue playing an organettoorganetto Musica Antiqua's organetto was built by the John Brombaugh Organ Company from a fifteenth century painting on wood by Hans Memling. The bellows provide air pressure only on the downswing, so the player has to space the opening of the bellows much as a vocalist carefully places breaths. Notice the wood inlays which appear on both sides as well as the front.


Additional Resources:

  • A. Schlick: Spiegel der Orgelmacher und Organisten (Speyer, 1511/r1959, English trns. E. B. Barber, Buren, 1980)
  • S. Virdung: Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511/r1970)
  • C. Antegnati: L'arte organica (Basle, 1511, English trans. C. Meyer, 1980)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum ii, (Wolfenbuttel, 1618/r1958)
  • M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636/r1963)
  • A. Werckmeister: Orgelprobe (Frankfurt am Main, 1681)
  • J. P. Bendeler: Organopoeia (Frankfurt am Main, 1690/r1972)
  • J. H. Biermann: Organographia hildesiensis specialis (Hildesheim, 1738)
  • J. Adlung: Musica mechanica organoedi (Berlin, 1768/r1961)
  • A. A. Hulphers: Historisk afhandling om musik och instrumenter (Westeras, 1773/r1971)
  • E. J. Hopkins and E. F. Rimbault: The Organ: its History and Construction (London, 1855)
  • H. G. Farmer: The Organ of the Ancients from Eastern Sources (London, 1931)
  • H. Klotz: Uber die Orgelkunst der Gotik der Renaissance und des Barock (Kassel, 1934)

organetto being played depicted in stained glass



Carl Bleyle

Carl Bleyle

Music of the Middle Ages

As performed at the Salisbury House

The flowers of the forest - Scottish (traditional) 
hammered dulcimer, tenor recorder, rebec

Lullay: I saw - Medieval English Carol 
soprano, tenor recorder

Hymn to St. Magnus - (12th century) 
bagpipes, soprano recorder


Pastourelle: Dehors lone pree - Anonymous French (13th century) 
pipe and tabor Read more about Music of the Middle Ages

Play of Daniel Performance in Des Moines

Steve, Jeff, Alan, and Dee dressed in medieval garb

Steve, Jeff, Alan, and Dee dressed in medieval garb for the Play of Daniel in Des Moines

Doc in costume

Doc, costumed even with organetto strap for playing during the processional

Dee in costume

Everything's medieval except the bike.

Doc practicing

In the Gull Point Lodge, Lake West Okoboji

Doc setting up for program

Doc is seen wishing that all the equipment would levitate into place 
for a program at Maharishi University.

A Program of Medieval Music and Renaissance Italian Music

Ut queant laxis - A Medieval Warmupby Guido d'Arezzo (c. 990-1050) 
Translation: So that thy servants may sing the woder of thy deeds with relaxed vocal chords, 
remove all guilt from their defiled lips, St. John.

Kyrie - Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) 
soprano, organetto, harp, bell, rebec

O viridisima virga - Hildegard 
soprano, symphonia, organetto, harp, rebec

*** Read more about A Program of Medieval Music and Renaissance Italian Music

Christmas Music in the Renaissance and Middle Ages

Two Spanish Carols - Anonymous (16th century) 
Dadme albricias, hijos d'Eva - vocal quartet, finger cymbals 
Riu, riu, chiu: El lobo - baritone, vocal quartet, krummhorns

Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen - two settings - Praetorius (1609) 
1. soprano, lute 
2. soprano and alto shawms, tenor and bass sacbuts

All my joy (Greensleeves) - two settings 
1. lute - Thysius Lute Book (16th century) 
2. bass and great bass recorders Read more about Christmas Music in the Renaissance and Middle Ages

1975 Performance at Kansas State University

musica antiqua performing

from left: Ed Weiss (lute), Margaret Harnish, James Hohlfeld (crumhorn), ???, 
Gary Tysdal (shawm), Susan Sacquitne, Kathy Harmison, Eric Van Camp (voice), 
Alan Spohnheimer (sacbut), Kathy Kiser (sacbut), Marion Hendrickson (bass sacbut) 
Carl Bleyle, conducting

Musicians playing on stage

Kathy Kiser (tenor sacbut), Marion Hendrickson (bass sacbut), Alan Spohnheimer (tenor sacbut)

Musicians playing

Intertwined sacbuts 
Think of this as a crowd pleasing feature, not a cheap gimmick.

musica antiqua performing

At this program, a recently discovered early manuscript was performed 
which sounded quite similar to the Kansas State Fight Song.

Musicians playing

Marion Hendrickson plays his new serpent

Musicians playing

Carl Bleyle on organetto, Alan on bass crumhorn 
who needed the pencil?

Conversation after the show

Visiting with the audience after the show

Susan Sacquitne

Susan Sacquitne

Four Centuries of Music from the Iberian Peninsula

Contigas ............................. Alfonso X (13th century)

#80 Mais nos faz - rebec

#216 Como Santo Maria - organetto, finger cymbals

#179 Como hua moller - gemshorn, lute, bells

#36 Muit´ amar devemos - bass

Motet: O Magnum Mysterium ........ Victoria (c. 1548)

Missa: O Magnum Mysterium ........................Victoria

Kyrie, Credo, Sanctus - ensemble

Three Villancicos ....................... Anon. (16th century)

Pase el agoa, ma Julieta - vocal quartet

Si la noche - soprano, recorders, gamba Read more about Four Centuries of Music from the Iberian Peninsula